Sunday, December 16, 2012

Time for the blame game - Updated

I saw Jake Tapper get into a brief argument this morning on the twitter about the media buying into the "violent video games are the problem" trope the anti-regulation gun crowd always uses to deflect blame. Jake said something like it should be a valid part of the discussion. Fine. Let's discuss that trivial contribution -- again.

But Big Media never seems to want to discuss their own potential causation of these brutal crimes. I know for the people on the ground being there is not a choice. I understand the need to feed the 24/7 beast but the competition for a "scoop," (which lasts a sum total of ten minutes or less on the internets), is out of hand. We should be able to agree interviewing kids at crime scenes is awful. Identifying the wrong person is negligent and this sort of paparazzi-esque assault of the mourners should be considered off limits among pros.

[Adam Gabbatt photo]

But that's about bad manners. The larger issue is how much does a huge media response like this contribute to the next act by a "troubled" kid who feels socially disconnected and very possibly suicidal?

[photo via Danbury News Times]

A depressed kid who feels invisible sees random young killers become celebrities on the teevee. What are the chances that level of attention could inspire him to copycat? As Roger Ebert explained it after Columbine in a taped interview:
"Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them.
They were looking for pundits who would blame violent movies. So the interview never aired. Apparently, that's not a valid part of the discussion. Yet.

Update: This morning a reporter asks, "When does reporting become rubbernecking?"

She asks if news agencies shouldn't use a pool system for covering these horrible events, as they do for so many other stories where space is limited and duplicative coverage is not only unnecessary but also intrusive. Good question. One I've been asking as well for a long time.

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Blogger Mad Kane said...

Thanks for your thoughtful, insightful post!

Madeleine Begun Kane

2:06:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Hey Mad. Always so good to see you hear. Thanks for dropping by.

9:30:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

About the most rational thoughts I've read on this revolting subject.

11:52:00 AM  

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